The Badgerometer is where we compile a Top 5 things from the previous grand prix (or anything else we fancy when there’s no race). Sometimes the racing is barely featured…
We loved the tension that was created as the laps ticked down in Monaco the other Sunday, but thanks to Vitaly Petrov’s encounter with the barriers, the resultant red flags and the ridiculous rule that cars could change tyres before the restart – thanks, FIA – we generally felt robbed of a great, close, classic finish on the streets of Monte Carlo. Could it have ranked up there with the closest of time though? The Badgerometer has been fired up and is ready to count down the closest finishes in F1 history!
The first win of many for British legend Stirling Moss came on a track that is now famous for horse racing than motor. Both him and Mercedes team-mate Juan Manuel Fangio were the men to beat throughout 1955, but the Argentine always had the upper hand when it came to securing victories. Two successive 1-2’s in Belgium and Holland had put the constructor’s cup in the German marque’s pocket, but on home soil Moss wanted his, and Britain’s, first ever win. After dicing with each other for all of the 90 laps, it all came down for the dash for the line, which several spectators reported Fangio lifting to allow Moss to win by the margin of just 0.2 seconds.
Ever heard of Peter Gethin? Nope, neither had Badger until we started poking around in the ’70’s archives. But, the only race victory he has next to his name is one of the closest finishes between 1st and 5th in the history of the sport. Held at the old Monza, before the long straights were broken up by chicanes, the race was a pure contest of slipstreaming F1 cars. Gethin, driving a BRM, made a brave move to take the lead heading into the last lap and held on at the line to win by the tiny margin of 0.01 seconds.
Same venue, same close finish, only two years previously. Four cars – Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Bruce McLaren and Jean-Pierre Beltoise – all shot out of the Parabolica within inches of one another, but thanks to a set-up change of longer ratios, Stewart managed to accelerate longer down the pit straight without having to change gear, an advantage that gave him the edge by a gnat’s whisker of 0.08 seconds from Rindt, Beltoise and Mclaren. All four men were covered by a narrow 0.19 seconds.
If you’re going to win your first ever race, you want it to be as memorable as possible. Thankfully, for Italian Elio De Angelis, it was a close as it could possibly get. With regular front runners Alain Prost, Ricardo Patrese and Nelson Piquet – who had taken part in F1’s first ever planned pit-stop – all dropping out, it was down to De Angelis to hold off a fast charging Keke Rosberg, who quickly brought down a 10 second lead all the way to the line. The Roman held on though, beating the champion elect by a slimline 0.05 seconds.
Any racing between racing great Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell was close and fair, but in 1986 it became the closest racing the sport had ever seen. While Mansell was the man to beat in the fastest car, the mercurial Brazilian would often put his Lotus in grid slots or race finishes others thought impossible. In Jerez, Our Nige led comfortably but needed to stop for new tyres with 10 laps remaining, but made up the 19 second gap to Senna to hassle him heading into the final corner. Blasting down the pit straight, Senna just had his front wing ahead by 0.014 seconds. Mansell felt aggrieved – had the finish line had not moved the day before, he would’ve taken the victory by probably the same margin.
As if it wasn’t enough for Ferrari to completely dominate in 2002, the attempt to stage a dead heat at Indianapolis between Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello only added to the team’s notoriety during that season. With Schumacher leading into the final corner, he slowed slightly to allow Rubens to get up alongside him as they crossed the line. Only, it didn’t work – mainly due to the sophisticated timing devices – and the Brazilian was ahead by 0.011 seconds. The after race press conference was awkward to say the least.